Bronislaw filled in a questionnaire while serving with the 2nd Corps in the Middle East - the following are the answers he provided:
From the the Hoover Institution Archive at Stanford University in California.
Questionnaire of Bronislaw Sokolowski, lieutenant, born 1910.
(A junior high school teacher from Drohobych)
On 9 February 1940, at 10:30 p.m., two members of the NKVD came to me, and after confirming my name and civilian profession, they declared that I had a weapon. At my claim to the contrary, one of them began a search. He first searched my clothes in detail – he took personal documents, Polish money in banknotes, and silver and nickel coins, leaving only copper pennies. Then, only briefly, he searched the wardrobes and the desk from which he took documents and a few small things (a book of the state of service of the official, bloodied and riddled with bomb fragments – in it a few banknotes of 20 zlotys, a photograph of his wife, his own photograph in the uniform of an officer on a horse and a bunch of keys and a rosary – all wrapped in a handkerchief). belonging to a fellow lieutenant rez.art.c., who died on 16 September 1939 in the village of Lipniki near Mościsk during the bombing of the battery by the German air force. This friend's name was Schwarsinger and he came from Yaroslavl.
The Russians behaved calmly, almost politely, during the search. Two more characteristic moments stick in my memory, namely: 1) the searcher did not scatter things – he put them back together and here he made a snide remark: "Your police during a search turn everything upside down – we do not do that", 2) regarding the killed colleague, he took ther rosary in his hand and mockingly said: "he prayed, but God did not help him anyway."
After finishing the search, they told me (as is the custom) that I was disliked by my comrades – I could be in danger here, so I would have to go to "other areas" and they ordered me to get dressed, giving me 30 minutes to pack my things. My wife, seeing that they were taking me away, expressed her desire to accompany me, to which they agreed.
We were transported by cart to Sambor, from where in the morning three soldiers with bayonets mounted on rifles, did not leave the two of us as we were transported to the Głęboka railway station (20km west of Sambor), where a freight train stood. We were loaded into a freight car with a stove in the middle and bunks at either end.
From the fellow passengers I learned that in one of the carriages there is my closest family (my mother, two sisters, and my brother) as well as our neighbours. After negotiations with the soldiers, we were transferred to the freight car where the rest of the family were. From conversations I jlearned where they will probably take us. Our transport consisted of about 20 – 25 wagons – about 32 people were placed in each wagon.
On 11 February 1940, in the morning, the train moved westwards (which surprised us) and at noon we reached Przemyśl. Here we were reloaded into broad-gauge wagons. The journey to the destination lasted almost three weeks in very difficult hygienic and food conditions. One small iron stove was to heat a large wagon. Dust from coal, split on the spot, floated in the air. The "toilet" pipe froze and only with constant heating of water and flushing was it usable. Although a doctor was with the transport and from time to time she appeared in the wagon, but her job was to listen to the patient – she did not have any medicine.
It was very cold, especially at night and it was not uncommon for parts of garments and even hair to freeze the walls of the wagon. The daily meal, taken once or 2 times a day at larger stations, consisted of watery soup and a piece of bread (400 – 500 gr). Water was supplied to us in almost sufficient quantities.
On the last day of February, we were unloaded at the Nova Zaimka r ailway station in Onieska obłasti (about halfway between Sverdlovsk and Omsk). Here 6 wagons were detached. We and the baggage were loaded on the waiting sled and transported in a northern direction to the camp, 60 km distance from the railway. The camp was called U pper Kamionka (Vierchna Kamionka) and belonged to the Jurgiński district, the Omsk region. Located on a small river, or rather a stream, surrounded by a pine forest, it was iced over at the time of our arrival. There were 4 barracks – of various sizes - barracks made of pine trees.
Inside, the once whitewashed walls were dirty, and above all full of bugs. Basically, each family received a separate room. In several cases, due to the lack of free rooms, two smaller families were placed in one room. 6 to 8 people filled a room measuring 4 m x 4 m. Later, by the work of displaced people, a "club", two residential barracks, and a command post were built. Consequently, housing conditions improved, especially since in the first half of the year about 20 people died as a result of the typhus epidemic. In addition to the listed buildings, there was also a bakery and a stable for horses, as well as a blacksmith and carpentry.
Wused water from the stream, and in the summer of 1940, two wells were built. However, even now the inhabitants of the camp could not use the well water, because one was only at the disposal of the Commandant, and the other for the use of the bakery. In any case, the collection of water depended on the good will of the Russian baker. There were enough toilets but they left a lot to be desired. The blame in this case should be attributed only to the inhabitants – the displaced persons. The bath house was also in such a state of disrepair that I used it for the first and last time immediately after arrival.
When it comes to medical care, it was as follows: from the day of our arrival there was a nurse who did not know her profession completely, and even if she had knowledge, she could not help due to the complete lack of medicines Finally, from the small amount of bandage material she had, she made curtains for herself.
The hospital was in a district town (the manager was a good doctor – a specialist) 18 km away. The more seriously ill were generally sent there, but things happened like this: someone from the residents begins to get sick – there are symptoms – raised temperature reports to the foreman with a request to be dismissed from work – this does not happen because the patient is "only" 38º. So, he continues to work out of necessity, so the disease intensifies and only when the temperature exceeds 39º does the foreman decide to send the patient to the hospital.
But it turns out that there is nothing to take them there, because four horses went with resin to the station, 60 km away, and return only for three days, and one horse is needed to transport resin barrels in the forest. Two died yesterday, and the last one ended his miserable life.
In the summer of 1940, there was an epidemic of typhish (the doctor described this disease as "paratif 'B'" typhus with climatic complications). This was due to poor housing and hygienic conditions and, above all, poor nutrition. In the shop that existed in the village, there was only bread. Mothers, wanting to save their children, asked the commandant for passes (without his permission it was forbidden to move away from the village) to neighboring villages to buy or exchange for clothing, milk, butter or eggs, but he did not allow it. When they slipped away at night, he organized manhunts and destroyed the purchased liter of milk, or a few eggs necessary to save the children. This one fact perfectly characterizes his (commandant's) attitude towards us. And after all, he had every right to grant a pass. He was a really evil figure, breathing hatred towards us Poles.
I will quote a few more facts illustrating his behavior. For instance, a small stream flowed through the camp. He figured out that by building a dam, it would be possible to pile up water and thus use the obtained hydropower to start a sawmill. The authorities of the forestry company (Himleschoz) to which the camp was subject, accepted his plan, but did not allocate money for this purpose. So, he decided to do it free of charge. In this way, every day after the day's obligatory work in the forest, he sent everyone in the evening to do this work. Everyone, even those who, due to age or health, were dismissed from work by a doctor. Thousands of cubic meters of earth were moved to this dam free of charge so that the nearest spring thaw would abolish it completely. Our specialists in this matter advised him how to build it, but it was not appropriate for him, the great communist, to listen to the advice of such people
Another fact: at one of the general meetings, when the commandant encouraged us to sign a state loan for the purpose of strengthening defense against the possibility of aggression from Germany, one of the Poles took the floor with the desire to explain the matter and encourage those present –he forbade him to speak Polish. Noting that we are in a democratic state, and everyone is constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to speak in their own language, he replied: "You must stick well in your head and remember forever that you are in the territory of the state where we (Russians) are the hosts.
Another fact: At the moment of leaving the camp (after the ‘amnesty’ was announced), he transported his property on several carts within three days. He came to this by a very easy way: on the one hand, he did not allow the displaced people to go away from the village, and on the other hand, he did not allow the local population to buy the Poles’ belongings so that they would have money to buy bread. In this way, everything that was to be sold, he seized himself and at very low prices. For example, he bought bicycles for 200 rubles, kilims for 100 – 200 rubles, and women's dresses for several dozen rubles.
The main work done there consisted in the exploitation of the forest by extracting resin from pines. This took place in the months of March and April, when the thaws slowly began. Already working a half-hour hike from pine to pine, the worker was soaked completely above his knees, often up to his waist, and it was in such conditions that he worked for at least 8 hours – day in and day out. At the end of April and during May, the snow was already melting, but the accumulated water from the thick snow cover, not having any outflow on the endless plains, created huge lakes in which you had to wade, soaked to the waist in water. In the summer, high forest grass, covered with dew in the morning hours, created similar conditions.
The work of extracting and collecting resin was divided between men and women. Men used special hooks to pierce the pines (very hard work). Each was assigned 4,000 to 5,000 or more trees, which he was obliged to do in three days at the beginning of the season, and in two days in full season (July, August).
Women and youth were employed in collecting resin, cutting into the "primitives". This work was also very hard, if you consider the terrain conditions. They had to go around up to 2,000 trees a day, wandering with 2 buckets filled with resin weighing 10 – 15 kg. In the full season, a man could earn from 300 – 500 rubles, and even up to 1,000 rubles, and women 100 – 300 rubles per month. Such months were July and August. All other months gave much lower earnings, and already casual work, performed in spring, autumn and winter, gave earnings in a roughly kopeck. The average monthly earnings, in an annual period, was 60 rubles – when 1 kg of butter cost 80 – 100 rubles, and a liter of milk 4 – 5 rubles.
The plague of these areas were mosquitoes. Going to work in the warmest months of July and August, it was necessary to put on mandatory "mosquito", gloves and tightly wrap the neck. The most terrible torment was work in July, when, apart from mosquitoes, tiny black flies appeared. It was difficult to defend against them - the netting did not help. Many times, I have seen girls coming home from work with swollen and bloody faces – coming back crying – looking like ghosts; in torn clothing, smeared with resin, bloodied and swollen. How many silent tears mothers shed over the fate of their children, how many curses passed through the clenched lips of sorrowful fathers?!
A carpentry and cooperage were also active in the village. The work of carpenters and coopers was much better, because being under a roof protected them in the summer from mosquitoes, and in the winter from 40º to 50º frost. In addition, it was quite well-paid (on average, a carpenter earned 300 rubles per month) and compared to the work of those in the forest, it was a clean job.
There were 45 families living in the village, and 4 single people, separated from their families, for a total of 142 people. One of the four was a 20-year-old bachelor who, having learned that his fiancée and his family were at the Głęboka station, loaded for transport, had come running to say goodbye. The convoy, guarding the train, easily allowed him to see his fiancée and let him into the wagon, but released him only after three weeks, when we were already at the destination station in Siberia.
All displaced persons came from two counties, namely: Sambor and Dobromila in Lwów Province, from the following towns: Felsztyn (town), Głęboka, Czaple (colonists from the west), 2 families from Laszek Murowane, one from Szumincy, 1 from Bylice, 1 from the vicinity of Drohobych and the rest from Lozy in Dobromila county (colonists from Krosno). The majority were farmers (middle-aged), and two families of intelligentsia (a high school teacher with his wife and a primary school teacher with his wife, also a teacher, and two children).
The average intelligence level was low – although almost everyone tried to be smarter than the other and was such in his own mind. As far as the moral level is concerned, this was even lower than the intelligence level, with few exceptions, of course. True, reliable patriotism was also difficult to find. I heard this phrase with my own ears: "if they gave me a piece of this beautiful, black earth here, I would not want to go back to Poland".
To illustrate the moral state, I will give two examples: after coming to the camp, a fellow teacher and I cut down pine trees, and one of the Poles approached the foreman and expressed himself in Russian (he knew this language well, because during the first war he spent 4 years in Russia as a prisoner): "Look at how Polish gentlemen work beautifully – in Poland they were lying belly up for months". The foreman looked at him indulgently and just smiled, and in spirit he certainly thought "you are not worth much".
The same Pole, who normally passed by and did not even say "good morning", bowed at the waist in August 1942, when I arrived at the camp, already in the uniform of a Polish Army officer to take my family away.
On July 4, 1941, I and 5 other men were arrested on charges of counter-revolutionary activity. Three days earlier, 2 others had been arrested. When, after a two-day stay in the district detention center, we were taken to the next area, the headquarters of the N.K.G.B. ("National Commissariat Gosudarstvennoy Bezopastnosti"), the two previously-arrested were released. Apparently, they testified against us and so they were released and we were arrested. We agreed that during the investigation everyone would talk only about themselves, not involve any of the others. Five kept up, but one did not. He figured out that by accusing others he would also be freed. He chose me and another companion as his victims. Nothing easier than to put in a teacher, an officer, which I did not hide, and a platoon reservist. When, at the end of the investigation, we were transported back to our town to confront witnesses, our eyes did not want to believe what we saw. All incriminating witnesses were our own Poles – only two of the dozen or so were Russians. It was a cruel confrontation – it was necessary to listen to their re-read testimonies in the presence of the arrested compatriots, which they gave immediately after the arrest – and that it happened on 6 August 1941, on the 3rd day after the ‘amnesty’ was announced, which was announced to us during the confrontation by the head of the N.K.G.B. (later it merged with the N.K.W.D.). Despite these great burdens, we made the way back in the best possible mood – for the first time really happy since the moment of resettlement.
After returning from the confrontation, we were placed – at our request – in one cell. After two days, the depressed Mr. X was suddenly called and another one – after an hour the other one returned, and I was called to the warden. The delinquent (Mr. X) was sitting in the office. I noticed that he was terribly pale and crying – I guessed what the point was. The chief turned to Mr. X with the words: "at the beginning of the investigation you gave your testimony to Sokołowski, for the record I will read it." I already knew about the amnesty, I knew that both small and large burdens would have the same effects, but while reading the testimonies against me, made by this Mr. X, my hair stood on end – I immediately thought that probably such "criminals" would not be covered by amnesty. I give some accusations: "throughout my stay at the camp I expressed myself as boldly as possible about communism and expressed dissatisfaction, I kept the spirit of Polishness and called for perseverance, because the moment of liberation is approaching – a war between Germany and the Soviet Union is inevitable, and then at the first clash the whole Union will fall apart along with the hated communism. At this moment I, as an officer, will organize a diversionary action" and a whole range of other things. At the end of his testimony, Mr. X says about himself: whenever I entered the carpentry shop (where he was a brigadier) and tried to gather a group of people to talk to them about these topics, he would threaten me that if I did not stop, he would report it to the commandant, because as a brigadier he would not allow the workers' state to be slandered.
Asked by the warden if his previous testimony – just read – he supported - in the end he said "yes".
It was only after returning to the cell that the spectacle began – he cried like a two-year-old child – at times the cry of the child turned into the roar of an old bear, – he began to bang his head against the wall lamenting his stupidity, his future fate – he called himself the meanest of people, spit on himself, finally asked for forgiveness. He admitted that the commandant promised him a better position and monetary compensation when he held the workers tightly and reported. I agreed to forgive, but on the condition that this event would teach him a lesson, to which he willingly agreed.
He was released two months earlier than me. I began to convince myself that maybe I would not be released at all - this also made him self-confident and reproached by my wife and my mother that it was his fault that I had niot been released. Coming back, he replied: "remember that there is the NKVD and if you do not leave me alone, I will send them after you." Such was the hero!
The way the investigation was conducted, I say objectively, was completely correct in my case, and even from the moment of amnesty - I would say very good.
As far as the ethnic composition of the inhabitants of the camp is concerned, the majority were Poles - only three families were Ukrainian. These families behaved in such a way as to remain in the best possible relations with the
"authorities" and at the same time not to expose oneself - just in case - to Poles.
Here I will give the names of the 32 deceased personds - but note that I put a question mark next to the names which I am not sure of - in parentheses I give the age of the deceased, which is approximate in many cases.
Materna Maria (18),
Materna Maria (3),
Materna Zofia ? (50),
Skraba (kobieta) (60),
Skraba Józef (18),
Skraba Antoni (60),
Dołeńko Józef (15),
Dołeńko Rozalia (32),
Biskup Maria ?(16),
Biskup Genowefa (20),
Kondziołka Klementyna (18),
Panek Julia (22),
Bachman Maria (18),
Antosz Władysława (19),
Zak Tadeusz (17),
Zak Ludwik (55),
Zak Katarzyna (18),
Zak Marcin (60),
Domaradzki Wincenty ? (60),
Prystoj Prakseda ? (30),
Hawret Zofia (18),
Cynkar Antoni (60),
Czarnota ? (5),
Szajna Anna (60),
Batycka Genowefa (6),
Kwolek Anna ? (60),
Rysz Piotr (35),
Rysz Janina ? (7),
Rysz Józef (42),
Horyśniak Władysława (21),
Horyśniak ? (65),
An elderly lady whose name I do not remember.
There is the number of dead for the time from our arrival to August 1942, i.e. over 29 months – this is 22.5% of all Poles. The most tragic fact is that a very large percentage are young people.
I stayed in prison for 5 months. I was released from the prison in Tyumen (Omsk oblast) on 1 December 1942. I decided to go to the Polish Army only in the spring, because those who had already reported in October or November were not received.
I concluded that the command had great difficulties with food, uniforms and, above all, accommodation. In the meantime, I accepted the job of accountant in "Himleschoz" with the proviso that I would be dismissed on 1 April. When the deadline was approaching, I reminded the director, but he told me that he could not release me without the permission of the commissar of the area. So I went to the commissar, who again referred to some regulation of the Soviet army authorities in agreement with the Polish army authorities. and told me that he would only authorize my dismissal if I received a call-up from our military authorities. On the same day, I sent a telegram to the representative of the Polish Army in Omsk, who sent a telegraph in 2½ days, directing me to Alma-Ata. In Almaty, I joined the group going to Guzar, where I finally arrived - after various vicissitudes (all my documents and money were stolen in Barnaul) on 22 April 1942. On the same day I joined the Zap. Regiment Special Artillery Division.
20 February 1943 The end